(Pocket-lint) - The smartphone landscape is changing in the UK - and across the globe - as some of the biggest smartphone manufacturers start to flex their muscles. We're not talking about Apple and Samsung, we're talking about huge Chinese brands like Huawei, Xiaomi and Oppo.
In the UK, Samsung and Apple dominate the market, but the global picture is different: Chinese brands make up around 50 per cent of global sales and Huawei sits in number two position - above Apple. So why are we now seeing all these brands appearing in the UK?
"Chinese brands like Xiaomi and Oppo are crushing companies like Sony, LG and HTC on the global stage," Ben Stanton (@BenjaStanton), senior analyst at Canalys tells us.
"Europe, and specifically the UK, are prime target markets because consumers tend to be wealthy, and these Chinese vendors see an opportunity to boost their mix of high-end phones," says Stanton.
We invited the major UK networks to comment on this changing landscape, but all declined - citing commercial sensitivity.
Huawei becomes a household name
Of all the companies having a dramatic impact on the smartphone landscape in the UK, Huawei is likely to be the most familiar. Through devices like the Huawei P20 Pro and Mate 20, the company demonstrated in 2018 that it has what it takes to compete at a flagship level. That's expected to continue with the launch of the Huawei P30 in 2019 - rumoured to be unveiled at Mobile World Congress in late-February - as the company continues to be disruptive.
That's reflected in market share in the UK, which according to Canalys, saw Huawei sitting at just under 11 per cent through Q1-Q3 2018 - with progressive growth over the last 5 years.
Huawei brings with it sub-brand Honor, which pitches powerful but affordable handsets to younger users, but offer undeniably good value for money.
Xiaomi the money (or lack of it)
Xiaomi is a rising star of the Chinese smartphone scene and for a brand that only launched in 2010, its rise has been meteoric.
"Europe is a key priority for us in our global expansion and the UK plays a pivotal role in this journey," Wilkin Lee, UK sales and marketing director, Xiaomi told us.
"UK consumers in particular, are some of the most connected in Europe and also the world, and we believe that they will love both our honestly priced smartphones as well as our connected hardware." Xiaomi officially launched in the UK in 2018.
"Honestly priced" hangs off a commitment from the company to never make more than 5 per cent profit on hardware sales, seeing flagship devices priced at under £500. That includes the Xiaomi Mi 8 Pro and the Mi Mix 3 slider phone - both using flagship hardware.
While Xiaomi doesn't spend big on advertising, preferring word of mouth, having a wider-portfolio of technology products will help it gain brand awareness. Putting an "offline" store in Westfield London certainly helps. "So far the Mi Store is proving very popular, on opening day alone we had more than 1,500 people visiting," says Lee.
Again, Xiaomi skins the Android software, and it's more severe than Huawei. As for the hardware itself - that's hard to fault, it has some great phones.
An Oppo-tunity for future expansion
Oppo might not be a widely-recognised brand in the UK, but in China it's another giant. Oppo comes armed with a portfolio of affordable devices, like the Find X and the RX17 Pro. Again there are some software foibles to step around on these Android devices, but Oppo makes some great phones, soon to be officially available in the UK.
We're expecting 2019 to be a huge year for smartphones. While Samsung tries to stop the slide in smartphone sales and Apple continues to push up the average selling price of its devices, there's a mid-priced vacuum appearing that's being filled with these Chinese handsets, offering a lot of phone.
So don't be surprised when you walk past Carphone Warehouse and see banners in the window for a brand you don't recognise, or your friend walks into the pub and lays down a phone you've never seen before: the Chinese are coming and they're changing the landscape of smartphones in the UK.